Two queer candidates appear to have won their respective congressional races in the New York primary, and a third queer candidate is doing just as well in his race to become district leader. Openly LGBTQ+ Afro-Latinx Ritchie Torres is currently leading against homophobic and transphobic Trump supporter Ruben Diaz, Sr., in the 15th congressional district. Black queer candidate Mondaire Jones is in the lead for the 17th congressional district. And Puerto Rican-Dominican queer Latinx candidate Samuel ‘Samy’ Nemir Olivares appears to have won his race as well.
Polls closed last night and 100 percent of the ballots cast in a voting booth have been reported. Remaining are thousand of mail-in ballots, but the margins of victory appear solid enough to claim victory. The two congressional districts are considered “safe seats” so a victory in yesterday’s primary makes it highly likely the Torres and Jones will become the first openly LGBTQ+ Black and Afro-Latinx members of congress following November’s general election.
“Richie and Mondaire have shattered a long-standing political barrier with their primary wins, putting them on-track to becoming the first two openly LGBTQ Black members of Congress," Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a statement. "Black LGBTQ people – like all LGBTQ people – are severely underrepresented at every level of government, but this gives hope that we are moving toward building a U.S. Congress that is more representative of the people it serves."
Ritchie’s Bronx district is the most Democratic in the country, but also the poorest. He told The Advocate the race was “the craziest possible race at the craziest possible moment” in large part due to the candidacy of Ruben Diaz, Sr., a man he described as “the most prominent homophobe in New York City politics.”
“Voters in the Bronx rejected the politics of bigotry and instead put Ritchie on track to become the first openly LGBTQ Afro-Latinx member of Congress,” Parker said in a statement. “At a time when our country is divided and we confront the realities of racism and police brutality, it is essential we have a voice like Ritchie’s fighting to turn the demands of protesters into legislative change at the federal level.”
Jones will be the first openly LGBTQ+ Black congressman, and his election is more than just about politics.
"In the 243-year history of the United States, there still has not been an out gay, Black member of Congress," Jones wrote in an op-ed for Out about getting in the race. "And for queer communities of color, lack of representation in public office has had dire consequences."
His single mother worked three jobs, and both his grandparents worked to help, with his grandmother cleaning houses of the people he will soon represent in Congress.
Olivares is running for District Leader in Assembly District 53, an unpaid elected official who serves a two-year term on the Executive Committee of a County political Party.
Ritchie will face Republican candidate Orlando Molina in November, while Jones will go up against Maureen McArdle Schulman. Both Ritchie and Jones are expected to win their races, and make history when they are sworn in next January.